Female characters add some substance to ‘The Wolverine’

Four years ago Hastings was close to screening the national premiere of Hugh Jackman’s first standalone Wolverine film, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” We took third place in the nation thanks to friends of mine in the media department at Hastings College, multiple Hastings residents, and, not to toot my own horn, but yours truly. When the film finally did premiere at the Rivoli I think all of Hastings released a sigh of relief, because “Origins” was not at all what we expected. The film was wrought with continuity errors, the tone was overly silly, and the action was lame. Plus, they ruined one of the best Marvel characters, Deadpool, among others.

Twentieth Century Fox responded to the critical reception to “Origins” with its new film, “The Wolverine.” After having seen “The Wolverine” I can’t help but wish we would have had a chance at this premiere instead, because I loved this film. “The Wolverine” had everything I was looking for from other summer blockbusters such as “Pacific Rim.” “The Wolverine” is Logan’s story, a man who has distanced himself from a life of brutality and heroics with a slew of mutants. Wolverine or Logan is torn down to his human self before he is encountered with both senseless killing and a chance to live a normal life.

What follows is not simply a bangin’, clangin’ action romp, but rather a fascinating look into who the Wolverine according to director James Mangold and writers Mark Bomback and Christopher McQuarrie, famous for “The Usual Suspects.” The film is based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s Wolverine story, but the film takes quite a few liberties, which might explain some of the backlash from fans.

The difference between the action in “The Wolverine” and say “Iron Man 3” or “Man of Steel” is the lack of collateral damage. Wolverine does not constantly fly across screen with claws unsheathed tearing up everything in his way. Audiences will see something not seen enough: swordplay between two worthy foes. It’s not until the third act that things get a little too action-cliche for my taste and tear down all that was built in the first two acts. Of course, Mangold shoots all his scenes with such great panache that it can be forgiven, plus McQuarrie and Bomback raise the stakes when the Wolverine meets his match.

The one thing that I think was holding back this film was Jean Grey’s constant cameos. I agree with some when they say this too plays with continuity and alters the already established timeline. I much prefer the wonderful cameos we see following the first string of cred its. It’s a perfect tie-in with director Bryan Singer’s new film coming out next year, “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

Additionally, some might take issue with the fact that “The Wolverine” really isn’t the focus of the film, but rather criminal activities that have consumed a family and attempted to bring down a powerful business empire. I thought this was a brilliant move. It mimicked what I love about “The Dark Knight.” Rather than having your characters crash through others’ lives to feed a comic book lover’s appetite allow the character to function within reality and assist those who need it. One fundamental difference between these two films is the fact that no one turns in a stellar performance like Heath Ledger’s as the Joker and it doesn’t have quite the majesty of Christopher Nolan’s direction and Wally Pfister’s cinematography.

All that aside, what I love most about this movie is what it did with the female characters. Mariko and Yukio were one hundred times more interesting than Mako from “Pacific Rim.” Mariko and Yukio were powerful women who both had skills in martial arts and were constantly defiant. They were both fooled by an inner plot that could be seen coming, but so were all the men in the film. Without their characters I don’t think I would have enjoyed this film so immensely, because after seeing the monster vs. robot mash I wanted to see some female characters — really any characters — who had some substance.

If you’re willing to ignore some continuity errors from previous films and aren’t a Miller/Claremont purist then you’re in for a treat when seeing “The Wolverine” — the Wolverine film Hastings, Nebraska, truly deserved.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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